Jobless Rate Up in Texas, but Outlook is Better

The unemployment rate in Texas has made another slight uptick. But the state is still in much better shape than the nation as a whole, and one economist believes the worst of the job losses could soon be over. David Pitman reports.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the unemployment rate in August rose to an even 8 percent.  That's a tenth-of-a-percent increase over July, representing a statewide loss of slightly more than 62,000 jobs in one month.  More than half of the losses came from the leisure and hospitality, construction, and manufacturing sectors. 

Jim Kee is the Chief Economist with South Texas Money Management.   He says an important thing to keep in mind is that unemployment numbers are lagging indicators, and he says those numbers in Texas lately have been getting worse at a 'slower' rate.

"When the lagging indicator's, kinda, getting worse at a lesser rate, or rising, in the case of unemployment, rising at a lower rate, that tends to mean that, in the present, things are probably turning positive."

But Kee cautions against reading too much into just one or two month's worth of data.

"I look for a sequence of three or four.  If we started to see big jumps again in the unemployment rate, I'd start to be more concerned.  But right now, when a lagging indicator is getting less worse, I think it's good news."

The last time unemployment in Texas hit 8 percent was in November of 1987, at the tail end of an oil bust that crippled the state's economy.   The Houston-area rate is just above the state's average — at 8.4 percent.  But both are well below the 'national' jobless rate of 9.7 percent.

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David Pitman

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